Ole Miss, Mississippi State football program updates

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The Ole Miss football program has been disappointing over the last couple of years. Some of the failure has been due to the sanctions by the NCAA. Those sanctions are gone now, though. Ever since the resignation/firing of former head coach Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss has been below average.

Joshua McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics
Lane Kiffin being introduced as Ole Miss’ new head football coach.

Freeze’s replacement Matt Luke did a good job as the interim in 2017 going 6-6 and winning the Egg Bowl. Ole Miss then decided to give Matt Luke the official head coaching job. In 2018 the Ole Miss season was definitely a disappointment. The Rebels started 5-2 then lost the rest of their games and finished 5-7. They lost many winnable games down the stretch to Vanderbilt and South Carolina and had a chance to beat Auburn.

This year Ole Miss brought in two new coordinators and a good amount of young talent. The season was a disappointment, to say the least. The Rebels went 4-8 and 2-6 in conference play and lost many winnable games to Memphis, California, Missouri, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Mississippi State.

The Rebels lost the Egg Bowl in dramatic fashion. Elijah Moore scored to put the game at 21-20 and committed an unsportsmanlike penalty. The flag backed up the rebels and lead to a missed PAT. It was a very bad look for the school and the program. The loss was a bad one and it was the last straw for Matt Luke. 

Athletic Director Keith Carter decided it was time to move on from Luke. The Rebels now are in a coaching search and moving quickly. Athletic Director Keith Carter held a press conference on December 2nd. Carter said that he was going to find the right coach for Ole Miss no matter where he was from. Carter said that he was grateful for all Coach Luke did in the midst of all the NCAA violations. He said that it came down to not enough success on the field. Carter said that this decision needed to be made also to try to re-energize the program and regain the support of more fans. 

After a brief search, Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin, who was the head coach at Florida Atlantic University. Kiffin was flown to Oxford and was announced on Monday, December 9. Kiffin was serenaded by fans and students. Someone even handed him their baby.

Kiffin was the quarterbacks coach at USC when they won two national titles in 2003 and 2004. He coached under Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll while at USC. Kiffin was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at a very young age. He was fired after two seasons with the Raiders. He then became the head coach at the University of Tennessee for just a year before he departed for USC. Kiffin was the head coach at USC from 2010-2013. He had 3 winning seasons at USC highlighted by a 10-2 record in 2011. Kiffin then became the offensive coordinator at Alabama. He says he learned a lot from coach Saban while he was at Alabama. He won a national championship in the 2015-2016 season with the Tide. After 3 years with the crimson tide he left for FAU.

Although Kiffin has had some off the field issues, his hiring has definitely ignited and re-energized the Ole Miss fan base. Kiffin’s high-octane offenses have been very effective pretty much everywhere he’s been. Kiffin’s all time record as a head coach is 61-34. Kiffin said at the press conference, “We didn’t come here to be good, we came here to be great.” Kiffin has definitely excited fans and students in just a week.

With the exception of their Egg Bowl victory, Mississippi State’s 2019 season has been quite disappointing. After going 8-5 in 2018 with a team that played well below its talent level, Bulldog fans were unsure how Joe Moohead would fare in his second year as head coach.

The Bulldogs began the year 2-0 with two promising wins over Louisiana and Southern Miss. In the third game of the season, MSU lost to Kansas State in a horrible performance. MSU was able to rebound the following week and defeat Kentucky. After that, things began to go downhill. State lost its next four games and looked incompetent in all of them. Despite a disappointing year, MSU was able to go 6-6 and extend its streak of making a bowl game to ten years.

After the end of the regular season, many fans were not sure how they felt about the future of head coach Joe Moorhead leading the program. Recent reports have come out that Moorhead will indeed return for the 2020 season despite speculation that he might be fired or take another job.

Although fans have a negative perception of Moorhead, there are still some positive things in the program. State is on pace to sign a top 25 recruiting class and will return most of its best players for next season.

The season for MSU is not over yet, as they will take on Louisville in the Music City Bowl on New Year’s Eve. State should be favored to win the game, which will be very important for the program going forward. In what has been a down year, it will be very important to show some signs of life moving forward.